Gujarat Riots Remembered as Modi Steps In
On May 26th, India’s new prime minister was officially sworn in. Mr. Narendra Modi won this year’s elections with an overwhelming majority of the votes. There are high hopes for the new leader, but there is a fair amount of doubt within the masses. Religious minorities, especially Muslims, are skeptical as to the treatment they will experience during this Hindu nationalist’s term.
The justification from the Muslim Indian community comes from the events in Gujarat 12 years ago. Here’s a quick recap: in late February 2002, there was an incident between Hindus and Muslims that resulted in the burning of a train in Godhra, a town in Gujarat. A train car full of Hindu activists died in this unnecessary event that set off a chain of violence. Muslims were blamed for the deaths, so there was a series of extremely violent riots full of anti-Muslim sentiments. The riots were brutal. “Mothers are skewered, children set afire and fathers hacked to pieces,” during this time. Two of the worst events during these following weeks were the killings at Naroda Patiya, where a little over 90 people were killed and the killings at Gulbarg Society. In this small Muslim area, many were seeking refuge in former Indian National Congress party member, Ehsan Jafri’s, home. In the end the mob would overtake these people, leaving 69 people dead. Countless homes were burned as well as mosques in the Gujarat region. In the middle of all this was the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. He did nothing to suppress the riots or violence. Many of his officials that were under him during this time have received heavy sentences since then. Even now, Modi says he would have done nothing different. In fact, he supported the Hindus’ call for a general strike after the train burning in addition to allowing them to display dead bodies in Ahmedabad, a large Gujarat city. Official records state that the overall Muslim deaths were around 700-800. It is widely believed that the number of Muslim deaths are close to 2000.
Many people all around the world remember the immense violence during the Gujarat riots of 2002. You can only imagine why Muslims would have been quite hesitant to vote for the man who, in short, sat back and let their religious brethren endure such brutality. Some Muslims are quite optimistic with Modi’s win. They believe that he will not discriminate against anyone. Others are unsure as they remember the riots. Modi’s focus will undoubtedly be on India’s economy, but religious tolerance is a big issue as well within the country.[Image Attribute: Al Jazeera English via Flickr]